McDowell hopes ghost of Seve and coaching of Cowen can help him lift Claret Jug
Graeme McDowell is hoping the same bunker mentality which helped Seve Ballesteros lift two Claret Jugs at Lytham will help him pass the most strategic test in Major championship golf this week.
There are 206 sand traps on this 115-year-old links which, McDowell pointed out, is as many bones as there are in the human body — and every one of them has the potential to cause pain.
Like the resurgent Rory McIlroy and born-again Major championship contender Padraig Harrington, McDowell is widely fancied to perform well this week on an Open course which offers a strong cerebral challenge.
Even as he girded himself for a gruelling examination of his mental resolve, McDowell, who ground out a famous US Open victory at Pebble Beach in 2010, nominated Lytham as his favourite of the famous links on The Open rota.
Since he considers it impossible for anyone to emulate the feat of Tiger Woods at St Andrews in 2000 and keep out of the sand for
all 72 holes at Lytham, McDowell is ready to make one, two or even more visits to some of the most punitive bunkers in golf.
This is where Seve comes in. Along with magical hands and limitless imagination, the legendary Spaniard was able to persuade himself any task was possible, no mater how daunting is seemed.
“What was it Seve said to his caddie Dave Musgrove in 1988?” McDowell mused. “He told him, 'No problem, I am the best bunker player in the world, so I don't need to worry if there are a lot of traps here'.
“I guess Seve was right, because he was up there in sand saves that week. You've got to have absolute belief in your ability at Lytham.
“That's easier said than done. It comes with thorough practice and performing under tournament conditions,” continued McDowell, who this week will base Seve-like bravura on the solid foundation laid by short-game guru Pete Cowen in recent weeks.
“Pete's probably one of the best short-game coaches in the world,” the Ulsterman enthused. “You've only got to look at the work he's done with Lee Westwood, who's leading the sand saves on tour this year, but would have confessed he wasn't exactly the best bunker player in the world a few years back.
“My bunker play probably let me down at Olympic,” added McDowell, runner-up to Webb Simpson in last month's US Open. “It's something I've been keeping my eye on in the last three or four weeks, trying to improve and Pete's been a huge help.”
Confirming that he “loves the tough tests which force you to be extra patient”, the Ulsterman went on: “I like the way Lytham sets up. Play well and you'll get rewarded. Play badly and you certainly will get punished.”